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Joel Pelletier: TAXI Confessions

TAXI gif Back in May 1998, I got a membership to the Los Angeles-based company, TAXI. TAXI is a sort of music industry middle-man, acting as a professional screener for record labels, publishers, artists, production companies, etc., that are looking for submissions for specific needs/genres/projects, and accept TAXI's submissions, obstensively because of their long industry experience and contacts.

How this works, basically, is:

  • TAXI solicits wish-lists from industry labels/publishers/production companies, etc.
  • TAXI puts out a bi-monthly listing of these lists (you can see them at the TAXI website).
  • TAXI gets a few hundred dollars a year from members, plus $5 for every member song submitted
  • Only TAXI members can submit songs
  • TAXI staffers (who, according to them, actually work in the industry, i.e. music company/radio interns, staffers, A&R, etc) review the submissions and "rate" each songs suitability according to the requirements of the listing
  • If the songs are accepted, TAXI forwards them to the companies that placed the listing with them, supposedly assuring that they WILL be listened to, since they have now become official "solicited material."

    Now, this information is not intended as a commercial for them, although I wish them much success, especially if I acheive, with their help, much success, but instead I am providing copies of their "scorecards" of my submissions, along with information on whether they passed on my material or not.

    I find the "music industry" interesting, frustrating, banal, exciting and rather confusing all at the same time, most likely because it is run by people, each with their own opinions, likes and dislikes. For each of the TAXI listings that I submitted to, I selected (at their request) 2-3 specific songs from my Chamber Pop Enhanced CD, although the entire CD was sent.

    The tables below represent the "score sheet" filled out by the (anonymous) TAXI reviewers. The categories are:

  • Music
  • Lyrics
  • Marketability
  • Arrangement
  • Production/Engineering
  • Musicianship
  • Lead Vocal
    These categories, scored between 1 and 5 (5=best) are usually accompanied by comments (also including below - we hold back nothing!) Nothing about poise, although there will be a swimsuit competion later in the program...

    The fun part of this is seeing the different scores, duplicated off their sheets, with their comments, and then trying to figure out why some were forwarded and some were not (My comments are in maroon)!


    Listing #980320P0 (15 March 98)
    Pop Listing: Head of A&R for solid European Lable with Major Distribution looking for CONTEMPORARY POP/ROCK ARTISTS/BANDS a la Sting, Peter Gabriel, Martin Page, for release in Europe and Asia. He prefers completed CD's or good-sounding demos. He wants to hear atleast 6 songs. Please submit at least 6 songs on cassette (TAXI will listen to the first two songs) include photo, bio, and lyric sheets. CD's are OK, too - please mark clearly on the CD case and submission form which two songs are to be screened...

    Songs submitted:
    A. Birthday Song

    Comments: Some strong "heady" lyrics that touch us all. Cool CD cover. Well-structured song.

    B. Touch

    Comments: Very good lyrics. Both songs are a little too similar tempo-wise. Great arrangement.

    Overall Comments: Excellent clear, clean pop vocals. Great use of dynamics to build the song. I like the passion in your voice (on Touch). Wonderful use of instrumentation. Some words like "stroke her" (also in Touch) seem a little awkward. Nice build on vocals. Good work here, Joel.
    FORWARD - YES (TAXI listener #25)

    You gotta like this guy!

    Listing #980407JL (15 March 98)
    Film and TV listing: QUICK TURNAROUND!! Music supervisor at Major Cable TV Network looking for master quality, original SONGS THAT ARE REMINISCENT OF POST-BEATLES JOHN LENNON. Remember, master quality means that they will want to use your version - they won't want to record anything...

    Songs submitted
    A. Birthday Song
    B. Not Afraid of the End
    C. Sword


    No comment sheet was included, but E! Entertainment TV was sent the CD, so who knows...

    Listing #980404AA (15 March 98)
    Adult Album Alternative Listing: Vice President of A&R at Major LA label looking for strong AAA Artists. Hit potential (i.e instatly memorable hooks) and original vision are more important than any specific style, but the music should be suitable for your local AAA radio station...

    Songs submitted
    A. What Are You Now?

    Comments: Creative production trick in beginning. Innovative instrumentation + arrangements. Beatiful, emotive vocal. Chorus melody starts off with first couple of lines, but never reached the resolve you expect (well, apparently what you expect). Vocals give personality to lyrics, but they could be more developed in verses.

    B. Lie to Me

    Comments: Once more chorus starts off great, but seems to get stuck in same rhythm, so by end, it seems variation would make it resolve and soar. Stylish arrangement again, but overall song build should be examined (dynamics). 3rd verse lyric insightful, but phrasing sometimes prevents it from happening.

    C. Birthday Song

    Comments: Potent song lyrically. Song builds strongly despite some repetitive melodies up until instrumental part where you lose steam and overall dynamic. Song has great potential, classic potential.

    Overall Comments: Joel, you've got alot of originality, a strong creative force + I think "chamber pop" is a limited description. For a listing (high listing) such as this, you are just falling short of pushing your hooks, nourishing your hooks. But I think you are capable of pop success, but these three songs do not fully acheive that potential.
    FORWARD - NO (TAXI listener #40)

    Boy, this guy is tough! I don't know whether to cry or offer him a co-writing job. Note that his scores are consistently higher than the first guy, but he rejected the submission. And so we keep plugging away...

    Listing #980409SS (15 March 98)
    Singer/Songwriter Listing: Major Producer with Major Label affiliation looking for male and female SINGER/SONGWRITERS with radio-oriented material. This is as specific as they wanted to get. They don't want to pigeon-hole the listing too much. Great talent and material are more important than sounding like some other artist or band...

    Songs submitted
    A. What Are You Now?

    Comments: Nice production and music on this one Joel. The hard stereo panthrough me off in the intro... a little too much! This song needs a more memorable "signature" hook in the verses and choruses.

    B. Lie to Me
    (no scores given)
    Comments: Nice vocal and string arrangements. The melody of the verses is a little too predicatable and needs to be unique and distinct. The middle section needs an identifiable hook also.

    C. Birthday Song
    (no scores given)
    Comments: Real nice vocals, and arrangement too! Your verses need more varience in melody... alittle too apathetic (?!). The bridge also needs a signature hook (there is no bridge, which bothers some people to no end).

    Overall Comments: Joel, your overall production is done very well. I even liked the "Beatle" ending on your "Birthday Song". Your lyrics need to mature and evolve into concise memorable hooks. Try and concentrate on that melody that stays in your head after it's over! Good stuff!
    FORWARD - NO (TAXI listener #86)

    But apparently not good enough! Perhaps I'm picking the wrong songs off the CD. This guy was even tougher - I guess I'm not sleeping with the right people (yet)...

    Listing # S980417AA (15 April 98)
    AAA Listing: QUICK TURNAROUND!! Music Supervisor for Major Network TV Drama looking for master quality AAA and Pop/Alternative Artists in the range of Counting Crows and The Gin Blossoms to Sarah MacLachlan and The Cranberries. He also mentioned Tom Petty and late Eagles-type material as appropriate for this. Male or female vocals OK. He prefers to listen on CD and when he finds an artist he likes he's been known to use several tracks on the show. Please submit no more than three songs per cassette, include lyric sheets. CD's are preferred...

    Songs submitted
    A. Birthday Song

    Comments: Good all-around approach. Intelligent - Individual -

    B. Lie to Me

    Comments: More artistic, soul searching lyrics, somber instrumentals -

    C. What Are You Now

    Comments: Very cool - upbeat - good lyrics.

    Overall Comments: Joel - Intelligent, introspective, well-crafted + well performed. Wonderful grasp and utilization of genre basics rendered with individual conviction - keep it up!
    FORWARD - YES (TAXI listener #85)

    Now that's more like it. I think I'm starting to figured this out: it's the order (the same songs as the previous 2, but this time it was accepted and forwarded on). With comments like this I won't be needing my Viagra! Attention #85 - ever consider a career as a manager?

    Listing #980519PO (1 April 98)
    Pop Artists/Bands: MAJOR INTERNET COMPANY with innovative, award-winning technology for audio content delivery looking for POP ARTISTS/BANDS with finished CDs to post on their highly publicized website. This non-exclusive opportunity allows you to pursue other deals (with Labels/Film/TV/Publishing, etc.) while giving you the chance to sell your product online. This website already has content from major book publishers, well-known indie labels, and radio networks. They are looking to build a large library of quality, unsigned artists and bands (we know you're out there).

    Song submitted
    A. Birthday Song

    Checkbox listings (single song form, different from the others)

  • STYLE - On target for this listing
  • TITLE - Can't determine title by listening
  • STRUCTURE - Well-written structure, good sectional contrast
  • MELODY - Good music in verses and chorus, Hook not obvious enough (It's there but not very obvious)
  • LYRIC - Cohesive, good use of imagery, rhymes well, communicates emotion to the listener
  • GENERAL - Vocal does help sell the song

    Overall Comments: I like the way the vocals enter and just blast you. I also love the lyric - pretty heady in some spots. Excellent musicianship. Chorus could be a touch more obvious. You get it the second time around. Cool guitar solo. Tracks 2 (What Are You Now?) and 4 (The Same to You) are winners too.
    FORWARD - YES (Audio Highway) (TAXI listener #25)

    Listing #980506SS (1 April 98)
    Singer-Songwriters: A&R Rep at Major Label looking for great, modern SINGER-SONGWRITERS with unique vocal styles and great songwriting a la Ron Sexsmith and Fiona Apple.

    Song submitted
    A. Birthday Song

    Comments: Cheer up and have some cake (great idea, I think I will!). I like the cellos - really the only chamber element. The song itself follows a rather typical chord progression, and the vocal phrasing is basic. Are you a Beatles fan (there is a musical quote of "The End" by the Beatles at the end)?

    B. What Are You Now?

    Comments: Good bass playing, Joel. Good arrangement. Hands off the pan knobs, yikes! The wild panning and frantic strings distracted me from the song itself.

    C. Sword

    Comments: Not sure what's going on here. Potential suicide? Impotence? Murder? Am I really too deep (in this case, yes)? The most compelling one here, whatever the case.

    Overall Comments: Nice 4-color CD - Great Bio. Quite an effort. 1st song, a bit precious and self conscious. 2nd song, lacks word-music focus though the arrangement & production is dazzling. 3rd song solid. This might not be exactly a home run, but I'm going to forward because I think they'll want to know what you're up to.
    FORWARD - YES (Revolution Records) (TAXI listener #75)

    Listing #980521SS (1 May 98)
    Singer/Songwriter Listing: Manager of A&R looking for Male or Female (not androgynous) SINGER/SONGWRITERS with great lyrics and strong hooks. There's an original thought! Pretty wide open, stylistically. He wants outstanding talent, more than sound-alikes.

    Songs submitted
    A. Never Be the Same

    Comments: Great package! I love the strings! strange song, very untraditional which I like, howerver it needs more consistency to make it memorable. Though you do repeat "Never be the same..." it's just not frequent enough to really hook me.

    B. What Are You Now?

    Comments: A bit more on track here, unique instrumentation in a more standard form - still very different with a tighter structure.

    C. Birthday Song

    Comments: Sad yet uplifting song, pretty, possibly a little slow, dragging - could use a bridge (vocal) rather than just an instrumental bridge.

    Overall Comments: Joel, this is tough, I really like you - you're doing something different and I can't applaud that enough BUT the songs still aren't all there and this listing is extremely picky - on another day, another listing I may forward you - Song 2 felt closest for this listing. PleaseAlways keep writing. Good Luck!
    FORWARD - NO (TAXI listener #76)

    Special thanks to everyone at TAXI - this is certainly not intended as a dig at you or your services, but rather my incessant interest in revealing the "man behind the curtain", a personality trait that I believe is consistent with many of my lyrics.

    This page last updated on 7 June 1998
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